Last week I published an article regarding several players who were being overvalued in many leagues thus far. This week, lets take a look at those players who are surprisingly slipping under the radar and being undervalued in most fantasy football drafts. There are several reasons why these guys could be flying under the radar. Age seems to be the biggest factor. Not to mention coaching changes and philosophies seem to be pushing these guys down much farther than they should be. But as you'll see, these guys provide excellent value if one, two or all of them continue to fall as we head into July, the peak drafting month of the year.
Jay Cutler - Bears (Ranked 18th Amongst Fantasy Quarterbacks)
It's not hard seeing why Cutler is being pushed down to a borderline QB3 considering his past history in Chicago. He's been sacked an almost unheard of 148 times in 56 career games as a Bear. Luckily, Marc Trestman is in as the team's new head coach. And fixing up the offensive line is one of the things GM Phil Emery made a priority this offseason They signed free agent LT Jermon Bushrod and used their No. 20 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft on Oregon G Kyle Long. The team also brought in Martellus Bennett as the new starting tight end and, unlike Jerry Angelo, finally realized Devin Hester is not a competent No. 2 receiver, promoting second year Alshon Jeffery to the starting unit.
Throw in a backfield brimming with talent between Matt Forte and Michael Bush and you'll eventually see why Cutler is being terribly undervalued so far. QB1 status will never be out of the question because Cutler simply has too much talent. But even at his low point, he should still be considered a high-end QB2.
Steven Jackson - Falcons (Ranked 18th Amongst Fantasy Running Backs)
There are two main reasons why I think Jackson is being pushed down as a low-end RB2.
- Age - He'll be 30 in July.
- Offense - There are a lot of players who will be fed the ball between Jackson, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez this season.
Don't pay attention to either. Jackson might have a lot of tread on his tires, but he is still one of the most physically-gifted athletes in the NFL. The guy is made of stone because his offseason regimen is impeccable. Plus, we've seen many running backs put up 1000 yards easily well into their early 30's. Remember, Jackson opted out of his contract. The Rams didn't release him. In fact, they were hoping he'd come back.
As far as offensive concerns: Michael Turner dominated this backfield, rushing for over 1300 yards in 3 of the 5 seasons he was a Falcon. And he was one dimensional. In the last 3 years, Turner churned out a mere 48 receptions. Jackson wracked up 126 in the same span. And don't worry about competition from Jacquizz Rodgers. The team gave him many chances to unseat Turner in 2012 and he failed every time.
In PPR leagues, Jackson is going to be a beast due to defenses having their hands full with arguably one of the best passing offenses in the league. I know I have said in the past that gathering running backs early in the draft is a thing of the past. But if you can land an Adrian Peterson or Arian Foster AND nab Jackson, that's a duo who can lead your team to a title by themselves. Jackson is a borderline RB1 in my opinion.
Make sure to check out Phil's analysis of Steven Jackson for even more reasons why he will have success in 2013.
Reggie Bush - Lions (Ranked 20th Amongst Fantasy Running Backs)
Bush finds himself almost in the same situation as Jackson, but I believe he'll be even more valuable in PPR leagues. Many owners still have the Saints version of Bush in the back of their minds, failing to realize that Bush put up pretty strong numbers on a Dolphins teams that lacked much of a passing offense, especially in 2012. In the 2 years he was a Dolphin, Bush averaged 67 rushing yards a game, while adding a respectable 4.65 yards a carry. He also chipped in 78 total receptions. Now that he's in Detroit, he could easily total those reception numbers in 2013 alone. In fact, Lions HC Jim Schwartz believes Bush could catch as many as 80 passes this year.
Even though I consider Bush as another undervalued fantasy option, I wouldn't get too excited about his rushing numbers, however. The team still has Mikel Leshoure, who they would like to get more involved after an inconsistent 2012. But if Bush can at least come close to the 227 carries he had last year, while also maintaining his ypc average, Bush is more of a high-end RB2 in PPR leagues. Not a high-end RB3, which is where it looks like he is falling to currently.
Steve Smith - Panthers (Ranked 34th Amongst All Fantasy Receivers)
Out of all the undervalued players I listed, this is the one that shocked me the most while doing my research. While Smith did just turn 34 years old, there had been no signs of him slowing down at the tail end of 2012. In fact, Smith notched a touchdown in 3-of-the-last-5 games to close the season. Smith's 2nd-straight 1000+ receiving season was even more miraculous due to Cam Newton having a sophomore slump and, yet again, the team failing to find a competent No. 2 receiver to take defensive pressure away from Smith's side of the field.
The Panthers, with newly-promoted OC Mike Shula, want to run a more up-tempo offense in 2013. And Shula sticking around to mentor Newton can only mean better days ahead this season. Smith has 7 1000-yard receiving seasons under his belt. As long as he can maintain health, something he has been able to do from 2011-2012, another 80 receptions and 1100-1200 yards should be in the forecast. He's a questionable WR1, but there is no way he should be ranked as a borderline WR4. That's beyond ridiculous.